The essay offers a critical review of the historical debate on global trade in the early modern age and a consideration of the current methodological status of economic history. Retracing the main guidelines established in the last decades in Anglo-Saxon economic history, the cliometric and the neo-institutionalist one, it highlights the progressive hegemony of neoclassical theory as well as of a methodological approach that replaces analysis to explanation, data to sources, model to contexts. In the light of modernist historiography, it examines the substantial limits of this literature, which can be traced back to its constitutive theoretical premises: the avoidance of a historical and plural definition of State and institutions, the simplification of economic agency in a rational choice scheme, the persistence of methodological nationalism. Starting from the affirmation of a radical alterity of the historical approach compared to the theoretical one of the rational choice, the essay closes with a glance at the emerging historiographic trends, such as the New History of Capitalism, aiming at re-evaluating the contribution of economic anthropology and the economic history of the Annales to the historical study of the markets.
Parole chiave: Mercato globale; commercio a distanza; Nuovo istituzionalismo; Globalizzazione iniziale
Keywords: Global market; Distant trade; New institutionalism; Early globalization; Capitalism